15 January 2010

The U.S. is one of few countries that won't ban land mines

Excerpts from an incisive essay last month by Bill Moyers, regarding the victims of land mines, 75-80% of whom are civilians:
The United States has not actively used land mines since the first Gulf War in 1991, but we still possess some 10-15 million of them, making us the third-largest stockpiler in the world, behind China and Russia. Like those two countries, we have refused to sign an international agreement banning the manufacture, stockpiling and use of land mines. Since 1987, 156 other nations have signed it, including every country in NATO. Among that 156, more than 40 million mines have been destroyed...

The Nobel Committee said that part of the reason it was giving the Peace Prize to President Obama was for his respect of international law and his efforts at disarmament. And twice in his Nobel lecture, the president spoke of how often more civilians than soldiers die in a war. Then he said this:
"I believe that all nations, strong and weak alike, must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I, like any head of state, reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards strengthens those who do, and isolates -- and weakens -- those who don't."
And still the land mine treaty goes unsigned by the government he leads. Go figure.
Photo credit:Majid Saeedi/Getty Images.


  1. I am one "conservative" all in favor of banning anti-personnel land-mines. So, here's one policy I thought I'd actually agree with Obama about. I guess not :(

    Since the US doesn't actually use the things (in the last 20 years), and the ones we do use are (by policy) surface-laid and self-destruct (so they don't cause a long-term threat), I'd just be happy right now if countries like Italy and China (and Russia?) would stop exporting land-mines.

  2. I believe that one of the reasons why the United States hasn't banned land mines is because of their utility in the DMZ between South and North Korea; they were also suggested as a way to cut off Bin Laden's retreat from Tora Bora into Pakistan, but that didn't happen either.

    They really are shitty weapons of war, but being able to deny the enemy the ability to move through a particular area quickly is really, really useful from a tactical perspective. Doesn't make up for the awful problems of their cleanup, though.

  3. I have heard the same as Darren. The reason we have not banned them is because of our use of them in the DMZ between North and South Korea. No civilians are allowed in this area so there is no real danger of collateral damage. I think this came up a while ago when Princess Di was campaigning against land mines.

  4. We'll just note for the record that the DMZ is a habitat for the extremely rare Korean Tiger, the Amur leopard and the Asiatic black bear.

  5. That's embarrassing that the US won't ban the manufacture of land mines.

  6. We're the #1 exporter of arms throughout the entire world, and the only UN member that hasn't ratified the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (the second longest hold out was... Somalia)!

  7. Totally agree with banning land-mines - from my understanding they caused a lot of injuries to our soldiers in Vietnam when our soldiers ended up unexpectedly retreating into a land-mine field.

    Best thing to do? Right your representative and get a bill going in Congress - remember, they work for us!


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